Starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Rated PG. Opens Friday, August 7 at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Writer-director Nora Ephron doesn’t reach for the profound here, but the maker of Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail does manage to touch some deeper nerves.
In Julie & Julia, we get the double biography of two people who never met, although one certainly loomed large in the other’s life. Assisted by padding and clever camera placement, the diminutive Meryl Streep plays six-two Julia Child, who mastered the art of French cooking and changed the American palate from bland to grand, becoming a TV icon in the process.
Watch the trailer for Julie & Julia.
After facing Streep in Doubt, Amy Adams unglams again as Julie Powell, a Manhattan office worker who became Internet-famous by writing a Salon.com blog on her yearlong efforts to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Ephron’s subject isn’t really food—indeed, the cooking is indifferently photographed—but the kitchen as a place of reinvention.
“Even Julia Child wasn’t always Julia Child,” is presciently uttered by Julie’s husband, Eric (Chris Messina). This highlights parallels between the women, struggling to find themselves in postwar Paris and 9/11-shattered New York, respectively. Married to liberal diplomat Paul (an exceptionally restrained Stanley Tucci) during the anti-Communist witch-hunt, Child stormed the male domain of French chefdom—another step in a lifetime of outsider status. For Powell (with her mother’s nagging voice provided by Mary Kay Place), the project was a way to narrow too many choices.
Despite a tacky score and silly side characters, Ephron creates an effective vehicle for her superb leads. Uniquely for a Hollywood tale, support from solid male partners makes the message of self-empowerment even stronger. Of course, it also helps that Meg Ryan stays safely out of the kitchen.